From Strider to Elessar – Boromir’s Legacy
In The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien spends a lot of time reinforcing the idea that friendship will achieve things that neither strength nor wisdom hope to do on their own. He expends a tremendous amount of time detailing the interactions between characters, and through their words and reactions gives us vivid descriptions of how the characters feel about each other. What he does not do however, is tell you what to make of characters interactions “behind the scenes”. There’s a lot of love for the idea that Sam and Frodo or Legolas and Gimli were more than just friends, but whilst I’m not denying the possibilities, I prefer to fill in the gaps with what I see to be more realistic; a friendship built on the kind of trust that is rarely seen in our everyday lives. The friendship and trust that is built on the idea that no matter what may come, this man(or woman in the case of Eowyn) beside me will follow me into it. This does not preclude romantic love, but I see Tolkien do a kind of pair bonding in these scenarios, two of which I have already mentioned, and this is what makes it seem so close to romantic love, a scenario also built on pair bonding. But what of our forgotten King? Where is Aragon’s pair?
I think Aragon found his pair on the slopes of Caradhras, and lost him in the woods near the Parth Galen. Boromir, steward-prince of Gondor, was for Aragon and the fellowship a much needed grounding influence. Boromir had all the strength of character and of body than Aragon, but with one crucial difference, his mind was present. When Aragon and Gandalf were busy arguing over the choice of Moria, it was Boromir reminding them “this will be the death of the hobbits”. When wondering through the Mines, the order of the company was such that the three young hobbits were fenced in behind Legolas, in front of Boromir, with Aragon leading the rear. This order says much, first being that Boromir wished to protect the hobbits more so than the company, but secondly and perhaps more subtly, that Aragon wanted to watch Boromir. And watch him he did, he watched Boromir through the entire mine and only stopped when he charged onto the bridge, backup or no. Boromir was at the rear. The comparison is obvious, Gandalf could lead the company as he did ONLY because he had known that Aragon was ensuring they were following.
Aragon, presented with such a daunting responsibility as the safety of all of middle earth, only found the courage to continue in his companions. But Gimli and Legolas were bickering, the Hobbits complaining, Boromir was the foundation that Aragon laid his plans upon. Boromir was the character that he knew would follow him, king or not, into the fires of Doom BECAUSE HE HAD ALREADY DONE SO. The scene where Boromir shouts “Gondor” and Aragon shouts “Elendil” before charging the Balrog is not one to be discarded. It represents that although the two characters held different opinions they could still back each other up against the worst evil the world has to offer. Aragon to Boromir IS Gandalf to Aragon, just with a little more muscle flexing and bromance.
But Boromir dies. His simple mind is too easily swayed, he is the perfect reminder than ignorance is not bliss anymore than a drug overdose is healthy. Boromir represents for Aragon the last hope for a Gondor united under anyone other than him. Up to this point, Aragon seemed to be about as enthusiastic about taking the road to Minas Tirith as Frodo did about going to Mordor. So what changes his mind? You could argue that it was Gandalf’s reincarnation, or Elrond’s wacky wedding conditions; I think though that the memory of Boromir, the promise of not allowing Gondor to fall, the knowledge that his peer died under his guidance is what drove Aragon forward into his destiny, to ensure he has the power to never let another Boromir fall. I back this up with Aragon’s despair at Boromir dying in his arms, it is one of the only times in the entire book Aragon is so despaired he openly laments his failures. When he says “Now the company is all in ruin. It is I that have failed.” He is not speaking to Legolas or Gimli, he is telling Boromir that he doesn’t know how to go on without him.
It’s easy to think of Tolkien’s work seperate to Tolkien himself. But now I’d like to reflect on Tolkien’s time at the Somme, and how he himself stated that he had lost all but one of his friends by 1918 to war. Imagine if you can how many Boromirs Tolkien himself said goodbye to, and how much of himself he laid into his characters. Anyone who has lost a friend will concur that the loss of Boromir is a wound for Aragon that he will never forget, and that he will carry all the way to Faramir and into his time as King. The trust Aragon laid in Boromir is the catalyst that turned Aragon the Ranger into Aragon the King.
Another insightful essay from my friend and fellow Tolkien-blogger @wijopat. Check out his blog and stay tuned for more.
— The Tolkien Enthusiast